Day Two [Part II]
It took me a while to realize that it was snowing again, but I was sure that I was one of the first people to. I had to look past the blinding gleam of the moon to stare at the beginnings of what could be a storm by the time the sun was done rising.
It worked in my favor—having a snowy day. Visible footprints, fewer bystanders and the paralyzing cold.
Frozen crystals fluttered all around me, following the gust that tugged at the flaps of my coat, before melting into my hair and sleeves.
I used my hands to shield my face and shifted my gaze back to Danny’s house, watching lazy curls of smoke rise out of the windows to form a plume of smoke above the smouldering building.
The darkened, white paint furled and chipped off slowly—flames burning an angry red were visible through the broken glass of the door, eating up everything in sight to sustain itself and grow.
It was a beautiful and terrifying thing to watch, knowing that I had caused the carnage. There was just something enthralling about an unbridled blaze in the thick of the night—and winter.
It was one of those scenes I wished I could photograph, a scene I would never be able to recreate. I fought the urge to stare forever—I couldn’t even if I wanted to. The snow might not have been able to put out the fire but that didn’t mean it could go on for an eternity.
In front of the burning house, I watched the hitman get wheeled into an ambulance. He had been rescued by the throng of firefighters rushing in and out of the front door and had somehow managed to survive being stabbed, shot at and trapped in an alcohol-fueled blaze.
I wondered if the man would die on the way to the hospital. I wondered if the doctors would be able to save him. That was the only reason I hadn’t driven away yet, to see if he was still alive and prepare myself for the consequences that would follow.
A flurry of chilled wind had me wishing that I had a scarf, but I didn’t hide from it. The cold was the furthest thing from my mind at the moment.
My fingers curled around Daniel’s file, and I sighed, looking at the moon as it loomed over me as it often did when I had troubling thoughts.
Nothing good ever happened when it was so big and round—not to me anyway.
I returned my gaze to the ambulance as it drove away, lights flashing and sirens blaring. This time I avoided staring at the perambulating officers, or the fire itself. It wasn’t even an hour past midnight yet and I had already destroyed private property.
Ron was going to have my head when she got the news—that was if she didn’t already want my head for losing Daniel and revealing myself to the enemy prematurely.
I didn’t know who the hitman worked for but he had seen my face and could identify me if it was necessary. Each mission I took gave me more loose ends that required cauterization before I could be confident that no one would try to shoot at me when I was out on a stroll.
Pushing my way through to the crowd of neighbors that had joined me to watch the infernal chaos, I made my way through to Alex’s car.
I fished the keys out from my pocket and my fingers brushed my knives as I did. I let out a breath of relief and rested my head on the steering wheel before starting the engine and shutting the door.
I only put my seatbelt on when I was streets away and could no longer see clouds of smoke through the rear view mirror.
With one hand drumming a random rhythm on my thigh, I spared a glance at the file on the passenger seat as I pulled away from the Mid District.
The sniper hadn’t decided to check on her partner after all, so I had been left with no other choice but to burn all the evidence that could connect me to the crime scene to ash. I had taken the gloves with me, not stupid enough to trust the fire to destroy them completely.
The cleaver had been doused with alcohol then bleach, then dumped in a sink full of hot water. The blood I had left on the kitchen floor received the same treatment.
I didn’t need to make it disappear, I just needed to destroy the DNA that could be found in it—even with the heat of a blazing house, I wasn’t one to take any chances.
I had considered just triggering the smoke detector but I needed a street full of uniforms if I wanted to successfully sneak away undetected through the back door.
Alex, using his incredible foresight, had parked the car nowhere near the house and because of that driving away now didn’t look suspicious.
Besides, I hadn’t left the moment the fire started, instead I joined the neighbors to watch the authorities pull into the estate and expressed my concerns just as vocally as they did. I had taken the bandages off my head just to blend in as much as possible and thankful the bleeding had stopped long before then—the cold had helped with that.
There were no cameras that I had needed to be weary off so I just brushed my hair over my eyes to prevent the neighbors from being able to describe my features if they were ever asked—for whatever reason.
“I have to lose the coat soon too.” I sighed and eased off on the accelerator so that I could park the car.
I got out the bloodied gauze that had been wrapped around my wound, as well as the tattered gloves and put them in a Ziploc I had fished out of the glove compartment.
“I hope you know what you’re doing, Daniel. I also hope you’re still alive.” I grabbed the file again. It wasn’t particularly thick, but it wasn’t flimsy either. It had all the information I needed to complete my mission and more.
I yanked out the papers I needed and shoved the rest into the glove compartment, ignoring the guns and ammo and grabbing more gloves and cable ties.
Daniel was a poison specialist and a demolition expert, trained from the moment he was six and his grandparents agreed to having joined custody of him. Siix other bodyguards had been ordered to watch him after he arrived in the city and few lasted for up to two weeks before succumbing to mysterious illnesses or just disappearing altogether.
I wondered whether Daniel was stupid or smart for leaving his file behind. From what I could see, he didn’t even scratch anything out.
I had contemplated checking all the properties listed under Daniel’s name but after considering the fact that he had been gone for half a day I decided not to risk my mission by being petty.
Excluding the house that the firefighters had managed to save, Daniel owned two other apartments and a warehouse that he had purchased for Alphaz.
Logically, Daniel wouldn’t go to the warehouse or the apartment that his gang members knew about but the last option was too close to home for comfort—and my gut was telling me that Daniel wasn’t the most logical person on the block.
I didn’t want to bring my mission anywhere near the people I knew, even if it was an estate away, so I chose to check the apartment Daniel had told me about first.
I got out of the car and pulled on a fresh pair of gloves before pressing the lock on the key fob and walking up to the building Daniel had listed as his secondary address.
I had parked a few houses away, just to be safe, and when I spotted a man wearing a coat nearly identical to mine leaning against the front door of the complex, I was glad that I did.
My fingers curled around one of the knives in my pocket as I relaxed the muscles in my face and nodded in his direction.
While I wondered whether I should deal with the man now to save myself the trouble later, another man appeared beside him, a lit cigarette hung from the corner of his lips.
With a tight smile, I looked away and walked into the building. The door slammed behind me the moment I got into the lobby.
Shit, I cursed in my head as I jogged up the stairs, there are already two of them.
I knew exactly which room Daniel’s was but using an elevator at this point would be stupid. First, there would be cameras. Second, my arrival would be more than obvious to anyone waiting in the hallway.
By the time I reached the third floor I had a good idea of the layout of the building and had already come up with something that could be a plan if it didn’t end up killing me.
I walked to the room directly below Daniel’s and knocked on the door, hoping with all my heart that someone was inside.
My wishes were answered when it swung open. “Who are you?”
I bit back a curse when my gaze landed on the little girl peering up at me. I had been planning on knocking someone out and avoiding questions but I couldn’t do that to a kid no matter how much of a hurry I was in. “I’m your neighbor. I live upstairs.”
“Are you alone?”
“I need to use your fire escape. Do you know what that is?”
She nodded and reached up to touch one of the glittery accessories that held her hair up in little puffs. “I’m not supposed to open the door.”
“That’s okay.” I let out a breath. I really didn’t have time to find another way in. “And I’m not a stranger because I’m your neighbor. You shouldn’t open for anyone else though. Promise?”
The girl nodded and the door opened a little more.
“You can watch me the entire time,” I told her and took a step inside, ignoring the mess I had to walk through to open the window that led to the fire escape.
“When…” I turned back to the girl. She was frowning a bit now. “When are your parents coming back?”
When she shook her head, I had to force my mouth shut to stop myself from asking more questions.
It’s not my business.
With a nod, I flashed her a smile and climbed out the window. When I looked back, she was waving at me, and for a moment I felt compelled to save her. Only, I didn’t know what I was saving her from.
Something just didn’t sit well with me.
There was nothing I could do though, I couldn’t take someone’s kid away for no reason and the longer I stayed here, the longer she would remember my face.
With a soft smile, I waved back and shut the window, not able to look away when she rushed forward and pressed her face against the cool glass.
I’ll come back, I wanted to say. But that would have been a lie.
So I turned away and started up the set of ladders that would lead to Daniel’s room.
Hopefully, this would be the last fight I’d need to get into this year—or at least that was what I hoped when I whipped out a knife and flung it at the man having a smoke by the window to Daniel’s apartment.